100th Anniversary of the Loss of the USS TAMPA

Coast Guard Cutter Tampa prior to World War I. Completed in 1912 as the U.S. Revenue Cutter Miami, this ship was renamed Tampa in February 1916. On 26 September 1918, while operating in the English Channel, she was torpedoed and sunk by the German Submarine UB-91. All 131 persons on board Tampa were lost with her, the largest loss of life on any U.S. combat vessel during the First World War. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

Coast Guard Cutter Tampa prior to World War 1.  Official U.S. Navy photo

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the loss of USS TAMPA during World War I. TAMPA was one of six Coast Guard cutters serving overseas on convoy duty during the war. Also serving were the cutters SENECA, OSSIPEE, ALCONQUIN, MANNING and YAMACRAW. During TAMPA’s service in a foreign combat zone, she successfully escorted 18 convoys between Gibraltar and Great Britain all under the command of CAPT Charles Satterlee.

On that fateful day 100 years ago, after escorting her 19th convoy safely from Gibraltar to Great Britain, TAMPA, low on coal, detached and proceeded independently to Milford Haven, Wales. At 8:15 p.m. local time, the Imperial German Navy submarine UB-91 sighted TAMPA and fired a single torpedo that hit and destroyed the cutter. TAMPA went down with all hands in less than three minutes.

Grave marker for a Tampa Crewman in Lamphey Churchyard, Wales, United Kingdom. "In loving memory of our unknown shipmate from the USS Coast Guard Cutter Tampa torpedoed in the Bristol Channel September 26th 1918 Erected by the USS Tampa Coast Guard Post 719 American Legion New York.

Grave marker for a Tampa Crewman in Lamphey Churchyard, Wales, United Kingdom. “In loving memory of our unknown shipmate from the USS Coast Guard Cutter Tampa torpedoed in the Bristol Channel September 26th 1918 Erected by the USS Tampa Coast Guard Post 719 American Legion New York.

Committed to the depths of the ocean were one hundred and thirty souls, including one hundred and eleven Coast Guardsmen, four U.S. Navy sailors who were part of TAMPA’s crew, 10 Royal Navy personnel and five British Admiralty dockworkers who were aboard as passengers.

Alerted by the convoy flagship, whose radio operator reported having felt the shock of an underwater explosion, search and rescue efforts over the succeeding three days turned up only some wreckage, clearly identified as coming from Tampa, and a single unidentified body. Three bodies were later recovered, two from a beach near Lamphey, Wales, and the other at sea by a British patrol boat.

The loss of those on the Tampa was the largest American naval loss of life during World War I.

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